While Britain loves to make period dramas, period comedies are a much rarer beast, but we’ve got one with Blandings, based on P.G. Wodehouse’s numerous book and short stories set at Blandings Castle. The series pulls together some great comic talent, such as Timothy Spall, Jennifer Saunders and Mark Williams for six 30-minute episodes of entertaining silliness.
Spall is Lord Clarence Emsworth, a rather bumbling fellow who’s more interested in his prize pig than being what’s expected of the landed gentry and master of a stately pile. His rather loose, haphazard style endlessly frustrates his sister, Lady Connie (Jennifer Saunders), who’s constantly trying to bring some order and gentility to the castle, and rarely succeeding.
Then there’s Freddie (Jack Farthing), Lord Emsworth’s son, who’s endlessly in need of cash after one scheme or another goes south, or because he’s found a flavour of the week floozy in London that he’d like to keep entertained. There’s also a seemingly endless parade of nieces with problematic boyfriends who need to be helped or hindered. And behind all this is the endlessly loyal butler, Beach (Mark Williams).
Each episode follows a different short adventure, whether it’s the emergence of the priggish Baxter (David Walliams), a servant Connie wants to hire in order to enforce tedious order – something the other residents want nothing to do with – or Freddie bringing home a foreign noble who may not be what she appears. It’s a series of amusing farces, building confusion and madness between the eccentric residents of Blandings and the various guests and interlopers who come to the castle.
It’s gentle fun that’s suitable for the whole family, and while it sometimes lays on the slapstick a little too thick, it certainly keeps a smile on your face. It’s also noticeable that while comedy luminaries such as Spall and Saunders are very good, it’s relative newcomer Jack Farthing who’s the standout as Freddie. He’s certainly helped by the fact his rather dim but charming Hooray Henry character is a bit of a gift, and he’s give many of the funniest moments in the series.
It would probably have been better if each episode was a little longer, as it often feels like everything’s far too crammed in, attempting to fit the complicated set-up and payoff of each mini-farce plot into less than 30 minutes. Some of the stories are great fun, but they don’t really have time to be fully fleshed out. Thankfully though this isn’t too much of a problem, but it does mean it has to trade in pretty broad, silly, shorthand comedy – something Wodehouse purists have taken it to task for, feeling it lacks the sophistication of the original stories – but if you don’t mind a bit of daftness, it’ll certainly keep a smile on your face.
Overall Verdict: Blandings may be very silly, but it’s a light, airy, amusing concoction, full of silly farce delivered by some very good comic actors. It may not add up to much, but it’s an entertaining watch.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac